There’s a city in the east
Where they don’t mind you
Staying forever in bookstores
Reading, but not buying a thing

Where, over a cup of chaa
You can discuss politics, philosophy,
morality, literature and most importantly football and cricket
With some strangers and end up with four new friends.

Where you can find kids
With well thumbed copies
of Asterix and Tintin
Family heirlooms have never been funnier.

Where everyone is always late
And nothing ever gets done on time
Yet, miraculously, it all still works.
Time, you see, has no dominion here.

Where they still know how
To love someone right.
Hand-written letters, poems.
Evenings spent hand in hand looking up at the sky.

So when you ask me where I go
When my eyes are far away
Know that I go east,

I go home.

                                                 -  Lavina Narwani

Kolkata is a city of dualities. It is where the old and the new coexist right next to each other. It’s where the steel and glass towers of this decade rub shoulders with the century old ornate brick and mortar architecture. The diversity holds true for the people - from demographics to economy, from social customs to cultural habits.
It is where pockets of slums have settled into their daily lives - quilted into the urban fabric of high rises in a rapidly growing metropolitan.
And they do not want to leave.


Redevelopment sans displacement of
slums in Kolkata’s Urban Core

Srinjoy Hazra, Master of Architecture ’20

Advisors : Stefan Gruber
                    Jonathan Kline

The slums mentioned above are located in small pockets throughout the city. This thesis focuses on one small slum area at the fringe of the old city with the new city growing around it, and attempts to answer this question -

Can the displacement of the inhabitants of the slums in Kolkata, be addressed to benefit the aforementioned economically challenged group, through well planned design strategies facilitated by the government, private and non profit organizations, that rebuild their homes sans displacement by employing them for the renovation and reconstruction of their own community and giving them job skills training for future use?

It is clear that procuring enough funds to revamp the entire slum area in one go would be unrealistic. The idea is to undertake small projects that would work on the slums one section at a time. The next step would be replication of this model to percolate these pockets of impoverished regions within the urban fabric.


Understanding the context, the people, their problems and their wishes are of utmost importance to successfully navigate the issue of the slums impending a major infrastructure project and the government’s inability to provide an acceptable solution that is sensitive towards the residents. The adjoining slideshow gives a glimpse into the urban milieu and the agency that this endeavour is concerned with.

Sketches - glimpses from the slums of Kolkata


Based on the extensive research conducted on site, and taking into account the interviews that outline the needs and wants of the residence, a basic outline of the scope of the project was laid out by combining the knowledge gathered from the community and case studies conducted in USA, Brazil, Austria and India. 


Every step of the design process is measured and careful based on the previous research, analysis and identified goals, focused on the crux - this community’s zeal to hold on to their culture and their way of life. 
Holding on to one’s culture, should not mean having to compromise on the basic amenities and infrastructure. This endeavour attampts to achieve exactly that. From trying to emulate the way their individual living quarters function while fulfilling the government’s criteria for obtaining various subsidies, to maintaining the morphology of the existing urban fabric while introducing infrastructure and more open spaces - the idea is to do it all.

The individual units have been designed in a manner that they can be phased up as the family grows into it. They all also follow the requirements set by the PMAY that allow the residents to get maximum credits and subsidies.


The 1.2 hectare site also develops in phases.
The development starts with the HOLDING HOUSE consisting of 2 units where inhabitants of 2 families move in.
From that point onwards, an old existing structure is removed and replaced by an improved structure while the inhabitants of the former take refuge in the newer construction built before - all of which are built by community members themselves while gaining job skills training from volunteers and government officials.
The phasing works in terms of blocks, that maintain the morphology of the existing urban fabric as far as possible. This means that the lanes within the area for pedestrian access remain where they are - they widen to 8 feet for the wider roads outside the “blocks” and 3 feet within the blocks. The slide deck of the zoomed in views of the site above show the hierarchy of the different open spaces and internal paths.


Keep watching this space for more.